Our new stone terrace

We have a new stone terrace at our upstate lake cabin. Thanks goes to Chad and our two good friends, James and David. The bluestone has been sitting out front all winter too heavy to steal, too cumbersome to move. I would like to take some credit for the terrace but I was out of town working on the book when the stones finally made their move. The boys did a beautiful job don't you think?

My not nearly as manly contribution came later. I planted creeping thyme, alpine strawberries, lavender and we moved ferns around from the nearby forest.

Chad did an excellent job with the low broken stone wall.

Yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)

Allium bulgaricum (now more correctly called Nectaroscordum siculum but I'm not ready to change)

Mushroom weather

I heard on the news last night that this is the second wettest June in recorded weather history for the New York City area. Anyone who lives here can attest to that. It has rained 17 out of the last 21 days, and not days of just any rain but several where water pours solidly for an entire 24 hours. "Relentless!" I find myself muttering to no one in particular as I look out of the window.

When we were upstate this past weekend we had one soggy day of cabin fever followed by a cloudy day where we could actually get outside and do some gardening. I look forward to showing you the stone terrace that we were able to plant up after the bf and our wonderful friends did the heavy lifting while I was out of town. In the meantime, look at this display of fungus that I photographed.

Our small front yard has more different types of mushrooms this year than any place I've ever seen. I wish I knew if any were edible but I don't dare trust my identification skills even when armed with my mushroom books. Poisonous or not, they are still beautiful and mysterious and yes, a bit creepy.

Meanwhile my friends in LA and Texas haven't seen rain in months. I need to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" again and see if Mr. Gore's predictions are accurate. I seem to remember something about the Northeast turning into a swamp while the Midwest and California become a Sahara-like desert.

I know some of them look like other things...not my fault. Nature, she repeats her forms.

What we know as a mushroom is the fruiting body of the often much larger organism underneath the soil. These "fruits" are the sexual phase of the fungal life cycle.

According to Scientific American, the largest organism in the world by area (2,384 acres) is a fungus in Oregon's Blue Mountains. It exists mostly as an underground network topped by fruiting bodies, in this case, a tree fungus.

Not a mushroom but isn't it a lovely decayed leaf?

The Garden Conservancy’s Tour of Garrison, NY Gardens

I hate to use the word "fabulous" but this sounds fabulous. Reserve early!

“Our Backyards – The Garden Conservancy’s Tour of Garrison, NY Gardens” on Sunday, June 28.

The Garden Conservancy will host a special one-day tour on Sunday, June 28 showcasing the passion and very personal, relaxed style of local gardeners — a group of accomplished designers, garden writers, community activists and environmentalists working and living in the Hudson River Valley, home to Garden Conservancy headquarters.

The day begins at 11 a.m. with a picnic lunch in Deborah Needleman's garden and will be followed by self-guided tours of the gardens of Sharon & Chris Davis, Grace Kennedy & Tim D'Acquisto, Marilyn Young & Eric Erickson, and Joan Turner. The day will also feature "Green Tutorials" by photographer Ngoc Minh Noh and writer Cynthia Kling and will conclude with a wine reception at the home of Bill Burback & Peter Hofmann at Garrison's Landing on the banks of the Hudson River.

Participants should park at the Garrison Train Station in the morning. Transportation will be available to the various gardens. Directions provided upon receipt of registration. Registration is $40. Advanced tickets are required. Register on-line at www.gardenconservancy.org or call (845)265-2029.

First Harvest Day at the White House kitchen garden


"One young fellow talked about how he learned to be gentle. How being gentle was really important with the plants, with the worm that he dug up. Then he realized he needed to be gentle with his classmates and his family."—Sam Kass, White House chef and consultant on the South Lawn vegetable garden.

Listen to NPR Report: Kids Enjoy White House Harvest

A plant lover's painter

Insect Chorus (1917), above. Sultry Moon, below

I first heard of the American watercolor painter Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) in an art history class at the University of Texas. I loved my professor (I fondly remember her announcing in a previous class, "Now I must show you GreuzeI hate Greuze." What she did like were the early 20th century American painters such as Arthur Dove, Charles Sheeler, Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Milton Avery, John Marin, and Charles Burchfield who were all on the early path to abstraction.

I immediately respond to Burchfield primarily because of his interest in nature, plants and the seasons. But I also love the transcendental and somewhat wacky eccentricity he gives his work. Objects are recognizable but they have seem to be haloed with a mysterious glowing light that seems not always to come from the sun but from the things themselves. For this reason, Burchfield has been called everything from pantheistic to just plain kooky—both admirable traits in my book. Oh, and he was from Ohio like so many other creative people.

Like his contemporary Arthur Dove, he was also interested in the medical condition known as synesthesia, particularly the visual representation of sound as in the painting "Insect Chorus," above.

From a 1985 review from the New York Times of a retrospective of his Burchfield's work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
"All the essential elements of Burchfield's work, including his conviction and his acute sensitivity to the world around him, were evident from the beginning. His preferred medium was always watercolors. In the tradition of artists like Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh and Albert Pinkham Ryder, he drew and painted flowers, birds, clouds and trees not as he saw them but as he felt them, wildly, expressively, with his own sense of color and scale. Though the world around him was just as animate as Ryder's and van Gogh's, however, it was never alien, as theirs could be. From the beginning, almost every tree and cloud in a Burchfield painting seems to hear the same rhythm, to fall under the same mood."
Click photos to enlarge

Moon Through Young Sunflowers (1916)

Orion in December (1959)

September Afterglow (1949)

September Wind and Rain (1949)

The Coming of Spring (1917-43)

Village in the Swamp (1930)

Sun Setting in Back of Smoke (1917)

Sunlight in the Forest (1916)

Song of the Redbird (1917-60)

November Sun Emerging (1956-59)

Noontide in Late May (1917)

Moonlight Over the Arbor (1916)

Luminous Tree (1917)

Impression of Lightning (1916)

Glory of Spring (1950)

Dream of a Fantasy Flower, 1893

Cottage in the Trees (1955)

Clover Field in June (1947)

Childhood's Garden, 1917

Bright Sun (1916)

An April Mood (1946)

Charles Burchfield (above and below)

It's easy to see that some of his work bordered on illustration. He designed wallpaper like this moody sample above to support his family.

The Promise of Spring (1956)

White Violets and Coal Mine (1937)

Trees (1917)

Tree (1916)